Making store bought 2x4 suitable for work

Submitted by jrizner on Mon, 06/02/2014 - 09:26

As a newer and younger woodworker, I don't really have the funds to purchase many power tools (with the exception of a drill). So, for my projects, I have been using hand saws and hand planes only. I have run into one big problem. When I buy my 2x4s from Lowe's (the select whitewood boards), they are always in pretty bad shape. I was wondering if anyone had some tips on how to make them square and straight for use on furniture projects? I think part of it is that my hand planes are not tuned correctly and leave big gouges in the wood, but other than that, i'm at a loss!




Wed, 06/04/2014 - 08:53

Hi Joe,

Glad to see you're using hand tools - it's definitely worth the effort to learn to use them well.

It is hard to straighten a long piece of timber (say, over 3 feet) and it takes while by hand. Easier with a long hand plane (called a Jointer).

You'll also need "winding sticks", which you can make yourself from some hardwood (oak is ok, maple would be fine too).

Here's a good article about winding sticks:…

Do you have a sharpening stone for your plane? There are a few possible reasons you're getting gouges when you use it:

1) The blade's not sharp so you have to set it quite deep to get it to cut - sharpen it and you can make a finer cut.

2) Usually we'll round the corners of the blade so it doesn't dig in.

Here's a good video about how to sharpen a plane blade using diamond stones:

You don't have to use diamond stones - they're quite expensive. An oil stone will do the job just as well but takes a bit longer.

You could also try

I hope that helps.

Good luck,


Wed, 12/17/2014 - 12:47

Picking 2x4s that are (mostly) straight to start with will save you a lot of work. Generally the 2x4s on the top of the pile at the big box stores are the ones other people have picked through and rejected. If you dig a little (sometimes a lot) you can find decent ones. I like to sit one end of the 2x4 on the ground and sight down the length to see any bow or twist.